Foreign visitor arrivals in the Philippines shrank by 73% for the first seven month of this year, compared the same period in 2019.
Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said only about 1.3 million foreign visitors from January to July 2020 have been recorded, down from 4,852,107 in the same period last year. He also disclosed tourism revenue nosedived 72 percent to only P81 billion.
“Clearly the tourism industry has been severely affected by the pandemic and of course this is a result of the travel restrictions that were imposed in the middle of March,” he said.
The government issued various travel restrictions to foreign visitors last March as the Covid-19 infections spread globally. Bengzon expressed optimism, however, that local travel could fill in the gaps once tourism activities fully resume and local destinations reopen. He said that 10.8 percent of the country’s GDP could be attributed to domestic tourism.
Philippine Statistics Authority data show that domestic tourism expenditure reached P3.1 trillion. Inbound foreign tourism revenue was pegged at PHP548.8 billion in 2019.
“We have a very huge domestic tourism base. Last year, there were about 109 million domestic trips. And we’re very confident that as we open up local destinations, it will be the local tourists who will create or stimulate the demand,” Bengzon said, adding he also hopes the tourism sector will get assistance through bills now being pushed in Congress.
The proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) seeks to allocate P10 billion as financial support to the tourism industry.
“We have been virtually shut down for about 150 days with no sources of income. Infrastructure development can resume as we head into normalcy but for now, the priority of stakeholders is financial assistance in the various forms of what is in the provisions of the bill,” Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose Clemente III said Monday.
In a position paper, the DOT agreed that the sector needs “direct” financial assistance more and proposed that the reconciled version of the Senate and House bills provide PHP9.5 billion to finance DOT programs for critically impacted tourism businesses through low-interest loans.
It also proposed a PHP500 million budget to set up Covid-19 testing centers in tourist destinations identified by the DOT as well as to generate employment in partnership with local government units and the Department of Health. (With PNA)